Leaving Koh Tao

Well Koh Tao has certainly treated me well these last two weeks, however I fear if I don’t make tracks now I may never leave!
My two weeks here have been not only different to one another but also different to any weeks I have spent elsewhere; the first week full of the bustle and buzz of the dive school, my days filled with boat trips, buddy checks and buoyancy control, leaving at the end of the week with my open water and advanced open water certification and in search of somewhere to relax for a few days, It was also at this point that I became a solo traveller, as Alex headed home to prepare for her own trip to South America.

My second week here has been one of lazy days on the beach and sunset watching from the bar, my own little bungalow providing a staging post for expeditions to the beach, days filled with nothing more strenuous than sunbathing and reading, with perhaps the odd foray into the blissfully warm turquoise water. The little restaurant and bar with a veranda overlooking the beach near my bungalow has been my watering hole of choice, with lazy afternoons spend reading on the scattered pillows, and their rather addictive breakfast of fried pork on toast fattening me up nicely.

If my first week was defined by diving my second has surely been defined by the people I’ve met, as motley a crew as any man could hope for! The challenges of travelling on my own have brought perhaps the steepest learning curve so far, even the most basic social interactions must be sought out and the exhausting process of meeting greeting and chatting with a host of new people is quite alien to me having taken the long established friendships of home for granted! However after some initial worries I soon began to meet people, finding them at once more friendly and accommodating to a solo traveller than I could have hoped.
The first travellers I met ,after saying goodbye to our dive friends, were a south African couple who lived in London, I met first Kelly and later met her boyfriend Barry. I instantly fell in love with their South African drawl and even more so with Barry’s laugh which was gloriously entertaining to listen to, with them I met Daphne from Holland, also travelling on her own, and we all conspired to meet later for drinks. What ensued was a great couple of days with them, including time spend on the beach during the day and frequenting the many bars within stumbling distance of our respective bungalows in the evening, it was with Daphne that I was introduced to the wonders of fire limbo and whiskey buckets, best experienced together and combing to create a terrific night.

A few days of heavy rain and Kelly and Barry’s trip to the half moon party on Koh Pangnan meant I was once again thrust into solo travel. The next, extremely wet, night I spent at fishbowl bar revealed to me a host of amusing characters; firstly an odd Canadian man who carried with him everywhere a model of the Stanley Cup, with which unsuspecting drinkers were accosted to pose with, I heard he also keeps a blog documenting “Stanley’s” travels, alas however I have been unable to find it! I also met a Scottish guy running a pub crawl around town as well as another English guy from Bournemouth who happened to be the only other person I have met here under 20! Finally that night I met A Swedish girl comically named Hedwig, who explained in broken English how she had managed to spend her whole 8 week budget in just a week on Koh Tao!

The next night began innocently enough when I met a group of Austrian girls and we headed to a nearby party, with the addition of more buckets however the night descended into some farcical dancing and yet more fire dancing, to the delight of everyone involved! We could not however muster the courage to try out the flaming skipping rope and looking back I feel it was probably a wise decision to give it a miss! We instead joined forces with an Australian and German to party the night away.

Events however turned full circle and on my last night here on Koh Tao I met once again with Daphne and an Austrian friend of hers for a lovely dinner and drinks, we were regrettably however parted prematurely and unable to find them again I headed to a few of my favourite haunts for a few drinks. The night also brought a chance meeting with Kelly and Barry, who had enjoyed their trip to the half moon greatly, and we swapped details and planned to meet for breakfast the next morning.

On a side note a week on the beach has given me, a bookworm at the best of times, a great opportunity to devour some literature; Time Pages Derailed in uncle Ho’s victory Garden and Jon Swains River of Time both proving to be great tales of reporting in Indochina during the Vietnam war, River of time in particular painting a lucid picture of South East Asia that any traveller to the region can’t fail to recognise. V.S Naipaul’s Among the believers provides an insight into the mysterious workings of Islam, documenting his travels through Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, it is as much a study of the people he meets as of the faith and politics of the countries he visits.

I am now preparing myself for my trip North to Laos; a ferry to Chumpon, followed by a night bus to Bangkok arriving at 5Am, with a day spent there before another night Bus north, via Chiang Mai, finally arriving in Vientiane the next day, given the Thai approach to time keeping however I feel I may be on the road for quite some time!
I have greatly enjoyed my time here on Koh Tao, I’ve met some wonderful people and done some wonderful things, however the road calls once more and I’ve no doubt Laos holds a similar number of adventures in store for me.

Backpacking Jack

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” 

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